Home  |   About  |   Energy  |   Politics  |   Software  |   Music

29 May 2009

EuroElections 2009 : ALDE

This series on the Energy Policies put forward by the main parties running for the European Parliament moves on, leaving the heavyweights and bringing focus to smaller political groups. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) is the main political group at the centre, pretty much in between EPP-ED and PES. It is the major Liberal reference in Europe, as in the member states where it is represented.

Writing about Liberalism in Europe is not a simple task. While it can be identified as the ideology with the largest support base in the continent, and the one that had the strongest grip on politics during the last 25 years, the parties that directly subscribe to it are yet to have major electoral results (exception here must be made for Scandinavia). The main reason for such paradox has been the morphing of traditional parties (the several Conservative and Socialist flavours) closer to Liberalism, especially after the second oil crisis, that allowed them to capitalize on the broader Liberal electorate. Portugal is an interesting exception: the largest party in this state is the PSD, that although directly subscribing to Liberalism, was created under a Social-Democrat image, right after the 1974 revolution (hence the SD in the party's acronym). As the previous 48 years of Fascism rendered Conservatism unfashionable, PSD was able to capitalize on a broader electorate and eventually took the majority of seats at Parliament. Initially a member of ALDE, it forfeited and joined ranks with EPP-ED about a decade ago, openly searching further influence on euro-politics.

For foreign readers, ALDE can be broadly considered the European counter-part of the American Democrat party, although in a smaller scale and without much of the burdens of a party that is rotatively at the helm. Still, state-level members of ALDE are many times in power, taking part in coalitions needed to reach majority at local Parliaments to back up state Governments. All things considered, ALDE can be seen, together with the two heavyweights, as a third element shaping the EU to what it is today.

Visiting the party's website, it is immediately clear that the kind of budget the big parties can afford isn't there. Still, the website is quite pleasant and well organized, with a good deal of information on the party's activities and policy proposals. But there is no Election dedicated content, and the inquiring citizen needs some extra effort to get a synthetic idea of the party's programme for the coming term.

Inside a special space called “Key Documents”, at the left-side navigation bar, is a document for download entitled About ALDE leaflet [pdf!]. It starts with a message from the party's president, Graham Watson, of which it can be highlighted:

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe offers leadership and direction. It aims to build a broad consensus about what the European Union is for and how we can face together the supranational challenges of global population growth and migration, energy security and climate change, internationally organized crime and terrorism – all of which require a supranational solutions.

Further relevant contents in the leaflet:

We stand for individual liberty, a free and dynamic business culture, economic and social solidarity, sustainability in taking actions, protection of the environment and respect and tolerance for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.

Our vision for the EU is of a Europe which:

  • Reaches out to all European countries which wish to join and respect the principles of democracy, stability, human rights and a functioning market economy;

  • Promotes sustainable economic growth leading to more and better quality jobs, more consumer choice and greater opportunity for business;

  • Provides freedom, security and justice for its citizens, standing up for human rights and combating discrimination in all its forms;

  • Furthers justice, peace and stability and alleviates poverty in the world.

Finding ALDE's stance on Energy Policy is easy, at the top content bar there's a menu with the title “Policy themes” that unrolls a series of sub-menus, among which is Energy. This document doesn't really attempt to build a thorough Energy Policy, Vision and Mission are absent, strategies are diffuse; it is more a collage of loose tactics with an heavy focus on market liberalisation. The opening paragraphs don't leave much shadow of doubt:

ALDE Position on Energy Policy

The promotion of competitive, clean and secure energy is a key objective of the ALDE Group. This means a commitment to free and fair competition in the energy market and an active engagement in the environmental aspects of energy policy. ALDE supports firm binding targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The liberalisation of energy markets and the completion of the internal market for energy has always been one of the key objectives of ALDE. A truly European energy market means real and fair competition that benefits consumers. The Group has actively pushed for energy liberalisation, e.g. in the 2006 Parliament report on the Trans European Energy Networks (electricity and natural gas), with ALDE MEP Anne Laperrouze as the EP rapporteur. The report aimed to diversify and improve the security of the European Union's energy supply by forging stronger links with non-EU countries and integrating the networks of the new Member States.

The party clearly aims at projecting an image of being a major defender of free market and its fully application to Energy. Further strategic lines are drawn ahead, but on a very superficial approach:

The ALDE Group supports the EU action plan on energy and climate change. It is important to address the multiple and linked challenges ahead for energy supply, environmental sustainability, research competitiveness and a consistent foreign policy.

Research and innovation in the energy area play a considerable role: development of renewable and clean energy and of technologies for energy saving and efficiency will reduce our energy dependence, diversify the energy sources as well as decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

Not much to add to the Energy Policy put forward by the Commission, but in a much less committing fashion. The document only goes into more detail with two strategies, Liberalisation and Emissions:

The third liberalisation package

In September 2007 the Commission gave its proposal on a third package on liberalisation of energy markets. Its central aim is the effective separation between the control over electricity and gas transmission networks from supply and generation activities. The Commission proposed "Ownership unbundling", meaning that companies owning gas and electricity networks would not be allowed to engage in energy generation or supply at the same time. As an alternative solution the Commission suggested the establishment of Independent System Operators (ISO). This option would allow energy companies to keep their network assets, but they would have to hand over the control over their management to the ISOs. In its first reading in June 2008, the EP supported full ownership unbundling.

In reality, this is not exactly a strategy, ALDE simply limits itself to subscribe the Liberalisation strategy put together by the Commission. There's no reference to future actions or further Legislation to propose and discuss at Parliament.

The integrated proposal for Climate Action

In January 2008 the European Commission put forward an "integrated proposal for Climate Action" in order to achieve the targets that were set in 2007. The proposal includes:

  • An update of the EU emissions trading scheme (EU-ETS) for the period after 2013. It includes expanding the scope of the ETS and replacing national allocation plans with either auctioning or free allocation through single EU-wide rules;

  • A decision on Effort Sharing for cutting emissions in sectors not covered by the EU-ETS (such as transport);

  • A directive on renewable energy. The proposed directive sets national renewable energy targets that taken together should result in the overall binding target of 20% in 2020. It also establishes the binding 10% minimum target for biofuels in transport to be achieved by each Member State;

  • A communication on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Once again, complete subscription to the Commission's Policy, no new elements are brought about. The party tries to present itself as a major element in building the Commission's strategies, providing the consensus that allowed to bridge from the need for market competitiveness and the environment. It is far from clear that such is the case. Further down the page there's a list of articles and news that further detail loose positions of the party and its members, but from which a clear Energy Policy can't be easily distilled.

This Policy project doesn't have the same level of incongruence of those presented by the big parties, but that's in great measure a consequence of its superficial nature. The only good point that can be made from this blurry image is that ALDE doesn't seem to be band-wagoning on the bio-fuels hype, although the word actually appears once in the text, it doesn't have the same highlight other parties lend to it. On the negative side is the obsession with Liberalisation; it can have obvious benefits if it comes to foster the physical inter-state integration of the Energy Grid, but how can it deal with internal depletion? And the depletion in Europe's main energy suppliers? Believing in Liberalisation and Deregulation can be seen largely as a philosophical option, but it is an illusion to push it as the remedy for all evil, and believe it can solve the EU's most pressing energy problems.

It would be better if there was more to write about ALDE's Energy Policy, but there really isn't.

19 May 2009

EuroElections 2009 : PES

In the second installment of this series, that pretends to round up the Energy policies put forward by the main political blocs running for the European Parliament, the analysis is on the Party of European Socialists - PES. The eternal runner up behind EPP-ED, never got more than one third of the seats at the euro-chamber. Nonetheless, through the alternating democratic process at state level, it has been having also a relevant role in shaping the European Union to what it is today.

PES is a federation of state parties that are either part of, or closely related to, the Socialist International, being the political group at the European Parliament that is formally closer to the way state parties function. Still, it gathers politicians with very different approaches to Society, diluting its identity.

Unlike in the US, where the word Socialism is a synonym for Planed Economics, in Europe it still retains some of its philosophical meaning of solidarity and equality. Especially during the rebuilding process ensuing the Second World War, Socialism (or Social-Democracy in some states) in Europe became associated with John Maynard Keynes' recipes for economic growth, in what can be considered a politicisation process of popular Economics. The oil crisis (that hit Europe most during the 1980-1985 period) brought this Social-Economic view into question, with refactored interpretations of Monetarism becoming popular again, especially among Liberal parties and but extending to large swathes of the population. That, coupled with the fast expansion of the European Union (that brought rapid economic growth to many states), ended up moving some state-level socialist parties much closer to Liberalism.

In recent years some socialist parties were able to implement policies that directly social equity, like indirect tax increases, in states as the United Kingdom or Portugal. On the other hand, in places like Scandinavia or France, socialists remain closer to post-WWII philosophies. Thus, the concept of an European socialist is today something rather hard to define and largely dependent on geography. For foreigner readers to understand, a large portion of PES would be registered with the Democrat party in the US, while the remainder would not find home at any other party there, even with the Socialist Party of America, largely a Scientific Socialist bloc.

To the election. As one of the parties with the largest electoral base, PES can afford a professional website full with media content. After a few years with pink, the party's colour is again red, prominent in the website's design. Right at the top is a link to a secondary website dedicated to the 2009 Campaign. This website is built around something called the Manifesto, the result of a public consultation that went from October of 2007 to July of 2008, in wich more than 3000 individuals reportedly participated. This consultation produced a draft that was discussed and approved by the PES Council in December of 2008.

Both the Manifesto and the election website are markedly directed at younger voters, with audio, video and printable contents. The language is most of the time simple and direct; the word "your" is present at large. There's also a clear attempt to promote the party's graphical image as an identifying symbol of its members. That might not mean it won't work for maturer audiences likewise.

The printable version of the Manifesto is that traditional electoral booklet that could be expected. The introducing remarks are less of a laid down ideological foundation and more of an action programme, still, it is enough to understand where the party stands in the political landscape; a few highlights are reproduced below.

The Party of European Socialists is committed to creating a fairer, safer society, tackling the challenges we all face by putting people first.


For us, the European Union is the vital link in the era of globalisation. It puts our countries in a stronger position to solve global problems that have an impact locally. We need more active cooperation in Europe to tackle our common challenges and improve people’s lives. The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, subject to ratification by all EU Member States, would make Europe better able to tackle common challenges democratically, transparently and effectively.

It is now 30 years since the first direct elections to the European Parliament, which has a key role to play in realising our vision of a European Union which puts people first. The Party of European Socialists is your voice, promoting your interests and championing your causes. We are committed to:

01. Relaunching the economy and preventing new financial crises
02. New Social Europe – giving people a fairer deal
03. Transforming Europe into the leading global force against climate change
04. Championing gender equality in Europe
05. Developing an effective European migration policy
06. Enhancing Europe’s role as a partner for peace, security and development


We need a strong progressive majority in Europe to introduce the progressive reforms that are essential to secure the future well-being of European citizens and society as a whole.


The global financial crisis has exposed the weaknesses of the unregulated market. These are very difficult times in the global economy. The past year has seen two unprecedented shocks - the worst credit crunch since the 1930s and a record surge in energy and food prices. We need active cooperation in Europe and globally to coordinate action and tackle the problems in national and international financial systems; and we need to take proactive action to transform the economy – through investments in key priorities - to secure a prosperous and sustainable future for everyone in Europe.

Conservatives have pursued a policy of blind faith in the market – serving the interests of the few rather than the general public – and we are now seeing the damage that badly regulated markets can do. But we know we can do something about this. We can relaunch Europe’s economy and create a fairer and safer society for all in a New Social Europe.

Our comprehensive progressive reform agenda to transform European cooperation - based on our values of equality, democracy, human dignity, solidarity, freedom and justice – can deliver the change which the people of Europe so desperately need.

There is a great deal of comparison made with the EPP-ED's policies, possibly a consequence of PES permanent second place at Parliament.

Moving through the Manifesto it becomes clear that Energy Policy is relegated to a second plane by the PES, with only one of its pages 60 pages dedicated to it (even considering that half of those pages contain pictures or graphical art). Three lonely paragraphs, buried in a section about Climate, attempt at a sort of extended policy view:

We propose to develop a European Common Energy Policy based on sustainability, energy security and independence, diversity of energy sources and solidarity between Member States in the event of energy crises. The EU should, for example, increase its renewable energy supply by taking the lead in building a High Voltage Electricity Transmission Network for the transportation of offshore wind energy from Northwest Europe and solar energy from southern Europe and North Africa.

While these are initiatives to welcome, there's no time framing nor any sense of urgency. The "for example" is quite unfortunate, it hints at the party not having a properly developed policy.

We will support a modern Common Agricultural Policy that promotes comprehensive rural development and values the fundamental role of farmers, recognising the role of agriculture in protecting the environment, ensuring food quality and security of supply, preserving the landscape, and protecting animal welfare and plant health. Biofuels can help to lower emissions in transport, but this should not come at the expense of European and global food production, environmental protection or biodiversity. The EU’s Biofuels Directive should be revised to ensure respect of this principle.

It is good to read about Agriculture in a text that prototypes an Energy Policy. It is good to acknowledge food production as a major variable in the Energy system. It is bad to ignore what EROEI is, and what it vaticinates for agro-fuels in temperate climates.

It is for each Member State to decide on whether to use nuclear power. However, given the importance of nuclear safety for all European countries, the monitoring of existing and new nuclear power plants should be coordinated at the European level.

PES adopts essentially the same posture as the EPP-ED on Nuclear, leaving development decisions for the state level. Is this the Common Energy Policy referenced in the opening paragraph? At PES this hand-washing is not only a symptom of lack of commitment, but possibly of serious internal differences on the matter. Apart from that, the proposal for Union level safety motorization is welcome.

There's a lot left to be desired for from such meagre lines. Digging deeper into the election website it is possible to find something a bit more elaborate. At the Documents page, under a section entitled "Save our planet", is buried a link to a resolution with the title "Secure energy supply and smart, green growth: a new social democratic energy policy [pdf!]". This is an 11 page document dedicated entirely to Energy, produced at the 7th PES Congress, held in December of ... 2006.

What can be called a vision and a mission are laid down at the opening:

High energy prices and the evident consequences of our changing climate underline the urgency of a new energy strategy for Europe and our planet. European socialists and social democrats agree that this new strategy has to meet five different, but interdependent challenges:

  • it should tackle climate change and energy policy in a integrated way

  • it has to address the security of energy supply concerns

  • the new strategy should be based on the principle of sustainability

  • it should focus on the economic opportunities this global challenge offers
    by developing new ecologically sound industrial policies

  • the aim of the new strategy should be a common European market for energy that is based on the principle of solidarity and cooperation within the European Union

This document is worth to be read in its entirety, but for the sake of brevity, here is simply a digest. The document continues to underpin the party's energy vision, distancing itself from deregulation goals and proposing a social dimension to Energy Policy. After that, the proposed policy is materialized in six strategic lines; for each strategy the tactics devised are summarized below.

Tackling Climate Change

Referenced as "the most pressing problem", is tackled almost by a single line of action: expanding the Emissions Trading Scheme in both space and time. PES proposes the EU to lead a negotiation process to reform Kyoto in order to effectively guarantee a world-wide adherence to similar policies. As for Energy, this scheme is proposed to funnel resources into renewable energies and efficiency R&D. At the end is the proposal to accelerate the development of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technologies so they can become mandatory after 2020 for every new fossil fuel power plant built.

Securing Europe’s energy supply

This strategy can be divided into two main tactics: a) procure an EU agreement on a timetable for fossil fuel reduction in coming decades and b) procure partnerships with major neighbouring energy suppliers (e.g. Russia, Norway, Algeria, Lybia) that are mutually beneficial, guaranteeing long term supply. At a wider international level, it is also proposed for the EU to use its negotiating powers to promote its climate agenda in energy exporting countries, as also social stability.

Investing in Energy efficiency

Not far from the goals proposed by the Commission a few months earlier, this is the section where the party goes at greater length detailing its proposed strategy. The tactical outline is the following:

  • Energy efficient products - introduce new legislation to support the most efficient products, promote new technologies to support household - electricity supplier communications, among others;

  • Buildings, planning and construction - reduce energy consumption in buildings up to 25% by 2020; instruments like the European Regional Development Fund can be used to provide for household refurbishing to low-income families; reform urban planning down to local level in order to reduce unnecessary transport and promote infrastructures such as district heating;

  • Transport - strengthen alternative transport modes such as rail, inland waterways and maritime transport with better inter-modal competition rules; increase domestic bio-fuel production;

  • Improving energy production - move from average electricity generation efficiency of 40% to a new generation of infrastructure than can reach 60%; improve electricity transmission and distribution;

  • Consumers’ awareness - create an "energy culture" together with local and regional governance in order influence citizen's individual choices.

Promoting renewable energies

PES proposes the EU to go one step further from the goals already agreed upon in the 2006 Spring Council. It aims for more ambitious and long-term targets: 25% of renewables in primary energy by 2020, 50% by 2040. In the short term this is to be achieved almost exclusively by bio-fuels, with policies such as increasing the ethanol blended in petrol to 10%.

Diversifying Europe’s energy mix

This section is somewhat diffuse and repeats many of the points made earlier. New issues brought up are the decentralization of power generation and the need for a common Nuclear safety policy. The later is referenced as an important element of the EU's energy mix.

Value added: a European dimension of energy policy

A more political strategic line, calls for more cooperation at the EU level. Uniformise the internal market under the same political framework, with overcoming the market's discrimination for renewable energies as a goal.

Definitly, this is more than what the regular citizen could wish for, but it is a serious attempt at bringing together an Energy Policy. It quite resembles the Commission's proposals, but going further in many areas, both for the good as for the bad. There are interesting references to alternative modes of Transport and Urban Planning; Energy Efficiency is especially tackled in a much more integrated perspective than that of the Commission. Also relevant is the acknowledgement of the importance of the EU's neighbours and of the present role Nuclear has in the energy mix. On the negative side are the blatant promotion of agro-fuels and of-course, the suicidal CCS targets. It is pretty unbelievable to read in the same document proposals for an efficiency increase in power generation and proposals to reduce that same efficiency. All these incongruences bring into question many of the numbers that quantify the tactical goals laid down.

But what is more consternating is the absence of urgency in dealing with fossil fuel depletion, the sense that reducing these energies' consumption is dependent solely on the citizens' and politicians' will. Such is reflected in the way the party relegates Energy into the background, hiding its thorough approach from the common citizen and even failing to properly synthesize it. Can one day PES politicians reach the same level of energy lucidity Andris Piebalgs seems to have?

15 May 2009

Andris Piebalgs : it may have peaked.

When elections approach, public office holders can sometimes feel that with their term coming to an end the political correctness is not that constraining anymore. That's precisely what seems to be happening with European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. In a note that could be your regular TheOilDrum post, the Commissioner talks about peak oil in the past tense and warns that present oil prices at relatively low figures are simply transient.

Below the fold the 8th May entry to the Energy Commisioner's weblog is reproduced in its entirety, for such words from a such stakeholder are a precious thing.

Emphasis added mid text.

Are we moving towards a new oil crisis?

One of the few good pieces of news in the current economic crisis (maybe the only one) is that oil prices have gone from the 147$ a barrel of July 2008 more than 100$ down to less than $50 a barrel on the international markets. However, in the last days we have seen oil prises rising and reaching the price of $58 a barrel for the first time in nearly six months. Nevertheless low oil prices are also good news for gas, since gas prices are normally linked to those of oil. If we remember the difficulties that European fishermen and truck drivers had last year we can imagine what their problems with be if in the middle of an economic crisis they had to deal as well with prices over 100% a barrel.

However, we should not be under any illusion. The current fall of oil prizes is just the consequence of an even more dramatic fall in demand due to economic crisis. I add to that the fears in the financial markets you will understand why investments in futures of any commodity except the safest ones (gold, for instance) are so rare. But the fundamentals that drive the energy markets have not changed. Once the economic crisis is over demand for hydrocarbons will soar again, particularly in the developing world. And some countries are preparing for that. For example the Chinese government has granted a credit to Russian State owned oil companies Rosneft and Transneft $25 bn. against daily supplies of 48,000 tonnes of oil for the next 20 years.

The world is aware that the production of the existing oil wells is decaying and that new discoveries are more scarce and more expensive. Some experts consider that global oil production may have peaked at 94 million barrels a day [sic - the correct figure would be arround 84 Mb/d]. The current economic crisis can make the situation worse. The lower prices that we are enjoying now can be in fact bad news. At this price oil producers have been forced to postpone many necessary investments in new production capacity. These investments take decades to be accomplished. In consequence, if the current economic crisis finished and demand recovers we could be facing huge shortage of supplies that can lead to extremely high prices.

How high? According to the Secretary General of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Nabuo Tanaka, oil prices could go up to as much as 200$ a barrel in the next 4 years. A quick look back on the situation of last year when prices were at a mere 147$ a barrel maybe gives an idea of what the consequences may be if the prices goes a 25% higher.

The current relatively low oil prices give a respite to prepare for the coming new oil crisis. We have to reduce our dependency in all those areas in which black gold is not indispensable, such as heating, or electricity production. For those areas which will have to continue to depend on it, like transport, we need to accelerate the research for alternatives, like biofuels, electric cars or hydrogen. And in all sectors, we have to accelerate our efficiency being aware that every barrel of oil that we are using is one of the last.

It is difficult to forecast when the next oil crisis is going to come. As Nobel Price Niels Bohr once put it “prediction is very difficult, particularly about the future”. But one thing is certain, one day we are going to run out of oil, and to prepare for that day we may be running out of time.

There isn't much to add to these lines, for anyone reading this post likely agrees fully with them.

Taking the opportunity, it may be perhaps time to reflect on this Commissioner's term. The Commission took office with oil prices below 40$ and saw them climbing above 140$, dealt with protests from professionals dependent on oil products: hauliers, fishermen, farmers and leaves office during the worst economic recession since at least 1980. While during the first half of its term both the Commission and the Commissioner were reluctant in accepting the hypothesis of serious Energy supply problems, they eventually aknowledged the situation.

First with the setting of the 20-20-20 goals but especially with the second Strategic Energy Review, the Commission showed to understand (even if partially) that Europe's energy entitlement is at risk. Acknowledging the Union's unsustainable dependence on imported Gas and the present importance of it's Nuclear park, where two relevant steps. To that adds some interesting initiatives like the Mediterranean Energy Ring or the Solidarity Plan. But the most positive point to this Commissioner's term ended up being the commitment to Energy Efficiency - the policy that can have most impact over the short term.

On the negative side are the sense of abundance inherent to the 20-20-20 goals, the promotion of damaging dreams like CCS, agro-fuels or hydrogen and the the Marketplace adulation. Although the 20-20-20 goals are in themselves defensible objectives, they were designed for a Europe of the past, when energy was easily accessible in the Market. As for agro-fuels et alia this was possibly more the result of certain lobbies, although here the Commission also evolved by limiting the number of CCS pilot plants and reconsidering it's bio-fuels goals. Nonetheless, the greatest shortcoming of the Commission's Energy Policy was the absence of an integrated approach to Transport, where the EU spends most of the oil it imports. Jet-fuel and Liquefied Petroleum Gas continue to be subsidized, the Union is still heavily dependent on road transport (especially for freight) the High Speed Rail network is not fully integrated and far from reaching all states. The weakest link seems to have been overlooked.

What seems most difficult for European politicians to grasp is that the coming decline of fossil fuel consumption will be imposed by Nature and the Market, it won't be an option. With this weblog entry Andris Piebalgs definitely distances himself from that class of energy illiteracy, and just for that deserves praise.

When the largest party at Parliament, EPP-ED, writes in its campaign booklet that CCS and hydrogen are energy sources, one has to feel fortunate for having an Energy Commissioner capable of writing the lines above. Yes, it took the whole term to get there, but it eventually did. It seems unlikely that Commissioner Piebalgs can continue in office. Especially with the realization of the importance of the energy link with Russia, the largest states will possibly fight for this important office. Being the appointee from Estonia, Andris Piebalgs will likely see his place occupied by a German or Italian Commissioner for the next term. If member-states chiefs and the Parliament are able to agree on someone with the same understanding of Energy as Andris Piebalgs it won't be bad.

But alas, these lines end up highlighting how ineffective the current political system in preparing in advance and planning for the long term - only when the crisis hit comes the direct acknowledgement of a problem. Tragic.

Hat tip to Rembrandt for pointing Andris Piebalgs' original entry.

07 May 2009

EuroElections 2009 : EPP-ED

This post starts a series intending to reflect on the policies on the field of Energy proposed by the main political parties/blocks running for the 2009-2014 term at the European Parliament. Consulting the information made available on-line, either at home-pages, electronic leaflets or booklets, this series will look into the guidelines on Energy Policy that each party is proposing to euro-citizens.

Starting is the EPP-ED, the Cristian-Democrat block that has held the largest number of seats at Strasbourg since the Assembly's first day.

EPP-ED is a congregation of regional Conservative or Cristian-Democrats parties plus a few scattered Liberal parties. Most of these parties are used to be rotatively in power at state level and can be seen as the largest molders of what the European Union is today. With the largest electoral base, both at state- as at union-level, the party is also home to the ideas behind most of the policies and legislation put in place by the Commission and the Parliament.

The present Commission was shaped by the EPP-ED, largely influencing the name choice for Commissioner positions. Commission President, José Manuel Durão Barroso, although a Liberal, is a member of EPP-ED through his home state party – PPD/PSD – a Liberal party that has the largest militant base in Portugal.

The party's home-page is pleasant looking and well organized; although more focused in showing the work already made or in development by the parliamentary group. There's also an entire webpage solely dedicated to this year's election, a good place to know further the party's stance and the proposed programmes on other fields of action beyond energy.

It didn't take much time to find a booklet presenting the party's political guidelines for the 2009-2014 term. This booklet is very good, presenting not only the political programme but also a sum up of the party's ideology and its place at the present geo-political landscape. After messages from the group's parliamentary leaders comes a section that explains the values at the core of the party's ideology, of which the main section is worth to reproduce:

The European Union needs to update, reassert and modernise its values: freedom, democracy equality, the rule of law, along with respect for human rights, including those of minority groups These values are common to all Member States, in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women.

The essential pillars of our political activity must be to safeguard family values – particularly in response to challenging demographic trends and a falling birth rate – and to defend freedom of education. After all, the family is the basic unit that enables people to overcome crises, help each other, and prepare for the future. Our policy must be to strengthen families, ensure inter-generational solidarity and the passing on of values and heritage. The EPP-ED Group supports the laicism of the State, where this is a positive secularism that protects freedom of religion in a spirit of cooperation based on dialogue, mutual respect and reciprocal independence.

Economic rights are not secondary rights. They must be forcefully reasserted. Our Group believes that freedom of education, research, enterprise and competition are individual rights and the basis of a healthy and prosperous economy. There can be no justification for infringing these rights, which must, on the contrary, be further enhanced.

The value of effort, work, ownership and saving is insufficiently upheld. The current reforms aimed at reducing the burden on those wishing to work, save and invest must be continued.

A full page of this booklet is dedicated to Energy Policy, that his headed by the following title: Developing a coherent energy policy in the context of measures to combat climate change and sustainable development. The party's vision is resumed in a single paragraph:

The EPP-ED Group supports the establishment of a diversified energy mix, promoting higher energy efficiency in all activity sectors, the completion of the internal energy market and the development of a coherent foreign energy policy

And after it four strategic lines are laid down:

Towards a zero or low-CO emitting energy mix

The EPP-ED calls for:

  • more investment in R&D for clean technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and methanol energy, biofuels, biogas and biomass, which will allow us to rely on indigenous sources of energy in a sustainable way;

  • more emphasis on clean energy technologies such as nuclear energy on the part of those States that favour it, the use of clean technology when using fossil fuels and the use of renewable wind, marine, solar and thermal energies;

  • large-scale renovation of the cities (building stock, district heating systems, public transport);

  • increased cooperation and dialogue between Member States in order to avoid drastic consequences for the price and quantity of imported sources and for the overall levels of the EU’s CO2 emissions.

The first four elements put forward are CCS, hydrogen and methanol “energy” and biofuels, which are even called “indigenous sources of energy”. A worst starting would be hard to imagine, leaving a lot to be desired for on the party's understanding of what is energy. A positive note goes for the reference to urban planning and its role in Energy Policy. Still, one can't stop thinking that these lines are simply a gathering of names that have a good echo with the press; yes, Nuclear is there, but lightheartedly, but only for those who want it.

Energy efficiency as a key driver of competitiveness and respect for the environment

Energy efficiency in all sectors represents the most cost-effective and rapid way to reduce our energy dependence on imports, rationalise consumption in households and industry and drastically reduce our CO2 emissions. This requires the involvement of all economic and social sectors.

The EPP-ED Group advocates:

  • fiscal incentives for citizens and companies undertaking renovation works in the building sector and for the purchase of energy efficient vehicles and appliances;

  • providing users with accurate information so that they can rationalise their energy consumption, encouraging new technologies such as smart meters in particular;

  • continuing the rapid development of cogeneration in our energy-intensive industries and encouraging other sectors of industry to follow suit.

Things get better at this stage, the efficiency message is now well absorbed by the political class who understand how simple and light tactics can have an important impact in energy consumption (like the Labelling Directives). Naturally, one may or may not agree with specific tactics as fiscal incentives for vehicles substitution, but nonetheless, the election of Efficiency as a priority is quite welcome.

The internal energy market as enabler of open competition, higher efficiency and cost-reflective prices

Completion of the internal energy market is essential to the success of our security of supply and environmental goals. However, many obstacles to the free movement of gas and electricity within the EU still remain: lack of interconnection capacity between Member States; lack of harmonisation of basic technical rules; political protectionism; and the coexistence of 27 different regulatory frameworks.

The EPP-ED Group supports:

  • further technical and regulatory harmonisation, placing all companies on a level playing field so that they can serve customers throughout the Union, increase interconnection capacity, and create competition in isolated and closed-off areas;

  • setting up social programmes for vulnerable sectors of society without interfering with the market;

  • encouraging a truly integrated and open market in order to ensure that energy prices reflect actual production costs; an efficient market is also essential to encourage the significant investment necessary for the introduction of renewable energy sources.

Using rhetoric similar to that of the Commission, EPP-ED advocates that increasing the competition in the internal market can secure energy supplies from abroad and moreover, foster investment in renewables. On the later, Jérôme had the opportunity to explain just recently why this isn't the case. As for the former, why more competition between, say Portuguese and Spanish companies can bring more oil from, say Angola to Europe is something that only this party and the Commission seem to know – especially in the face of natural depletion. None of this goes at saying that liberalizing the internal market is an undesirable objective; while it's priority is mainly an ideological choice, it's effect on the problems Europe is facing today is largely limited.

Creating supportive energy diplomacy.

The EU represents more than 500 million consumers and therefore needs to establish a real energy diplomacy.

Solidarity mechanisms need to be established between Member States in case of emergency situations. The gas supply crisis over the past two years as well as the two EU-wide blackouts have demonstrated the need to improve physical interconnection and rapid reaction mechanisms, in order to avoid the potentially critical consequences these events can have on the economy and on society.

Reading the header of this section one could even get the idea that the EPP-ED is proposing an European Foreign Minister/Ministry, but that's not exactly the idea. Nonetheless, solidarity and physical interconnection are some of the added strengths the Union can provide and their reference is welcome.

All in all, this programme doesn't differ much from what the Commission stood for during the term that now ends. The booklet's section on energy is close to a condensed version of the Commision's Energy Reviews. Being so, the same problems are present: it is understood that something is wrong, although not quite well what; the recipe: throw at it all that the hand can reach, well mixed with a liberalized internal market. It turns out that some of what is being thrown at the problem is actually lumber into the fire.

On a positive note is the attempt to build a thorough Energy Policy, composed by four strategic lines, submitted to an integrated vision. These strategies are not properly realised by concrete goals, which even at this level of contact with the broader public should be possible. A few tactics are put forward, that as explained above, do not exactly conform to the vision and strategies outlined. A sense of lack of commitment ends up emerging from the programme as a whole.

Calling CCS an “indigenous source of energy” is one of the most hilarious things ever present in a energy text.